I like sex.
Quite a bit. Am I allowed to say that?
I’m going to jump right into this thing. I’m assuming that most who read this blog are interested in a Jesus perspective on all sorts of different issues, and are willing to ask and think about tough questions. And since I know Darcie, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re an intelligent person who is ok living with tensions and has a decent BS-o-meter. So let’s talk about how we view sex.
We’ve got to start to reframe the sex conversation in a couple of ways.
Because as I was growing up, it was the mark of true Christian faith. You could pretty much be as mean as you wanted, but you were the poster child for Christian faith if you stayed a virgin. That pretty much fits with many ways that we often understand Christian faith. Don’t drink, smoke, swear, sleep around, or do anything else that sounds remotely fun, and you’ll be a good Christian. Wooohooo! Sign me up!
But seriously, if you’re in the position where you are choosing to wait (or trying your best to choose to wait!), sometimes it can feel like it’s torture, like God is simply telling you that you’re not allowed to have fun like everyone else, and deep down, if you knew that you could deal with the guilt and get away with it- you’d totally go for it and have a fun one night stand.
Those feelings are natural. I dealt with them too. But here’s what I’ve learned as a married, sex-having person…. choosing to be intentional about sexual decisions is about waaaaaay more than not having fun. It’s actually about how God has wired us.
I have this inherent belief that Jesus wants us to have fun. Yes, there’s serious sacrifice in there. But I think Jesus invites us to a way of life not because he wants us to be miserable and always have to struggle to follow the right rules, but because he actually wants to set us free. Living, I believe, is the word he used for it. Fully living.
I also tend to think that God created us intentionally. And I tend to think that for the most part, following Jesus makes sense. Real life sense. More sense than we realize. Not just in deep spiritual ways, but in totally normal, practical ways. Forgiving people makes sense because you’re not free when there’s bitterness in you– your emotions are wrapped up with that person. Being generous makes sense because money can create this jail that stops you from being able to live freely in God’s world because your emotions are wrapped up in your stuff. And having sex with the person you’ve committed your life to makes sense because, well, you’re free to have your emotions wrapped up fully in that person, and not in someone else.
This whole sex thing is not just about the spirit. It’s about the body. More studies are now being released that are showing the chemicals that the brain releases during sex- not just chemicals of pleasure, but chemicals of connection. When you have sex with somebody, you become connected to them in a unique way. There’s an emotional and psychological connection that is significant, long lasting, and wonderful. Except…. when it’s with someone you’re not going to keep having sex with forever. Then it sucks.
I feel like I got this incredible gift by struggling through the whole not-having-sex thing. It was way harder than I expected, and I got pretty close a few times. But here’s the crazy thing- I become bonded to my wife. I learned how to have sex with her. And my emotions were able to stay wrapped up in her, instead of trying to unwrap them off of someone else. There was and is complete freedom, and it’s wonderful to be free in that way. Many people aren’t.
I’d love it if we were able to start talking about sex a little differently.
First, can we start talking about sex in terms of what we’re doing instead of what we’re not? The outside world looks on the Christian approach to abstinence as strange because we don’t know how to talk about it. It’s looked at as a limitation on freedom- maybe we can express it as an expression of freedom. We’re actually living the way our bodies were intended to function- free from significant heartache and emotional hurt that comes when our bodies make a commitment that our hearts and minds aren’t able to make. I’d love to see those in the abstinence camp be able to comfortably talk about their abstinence as doing something, rather than not doing something. If we knew how to talk about this stuff, maybe others would be able to hear the wisdom in it. That being said, we are a culture that LOVES instant gratification, and sex is nothing if not that, so waiting will always be a radical and countercultural thing. It’s cool though, because Jesus was both of those things too.
And second, can we please stop it with the judgmental spiritual superiority that those who abstain give those who don’t?
I’m going to say it- having sex before marriage is not the end of the world. Jesus specializes in helping bring life in hard situations. Abstinence is not the mark of true Christian faith, nor is premarital sex the unforgivable sin. Waiting makes life a whole lot easier later on, without a doubt. But you are not damaged goods. Seriously. People who are trying to maintain purity and end up having sex deal with a lot of shame and guilt already, not to mention all the emotional weight of being connected intimately to multiple people. That journey is tough enough, and there is emotional baggage that many of us have to carry from sexual brokenness and find healing for. I’ve seen it so many times. It’s a hard enough journey. Please don’t add to it!
Ok, one more sex tip for single friends who are choosing to wait, and feel like years are beginning to pass you by…. you know, the really good sex-having years….. Rest assured that sex is like wine. It ages really well, and you have plenty of time. Sex is great. But the freedom Jesus gives us – in sex, in life, wherever…. is even better. Hang in there.
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Keith Miller lives in Newark, Delaware, with his wife, Bethany and 3 little people they made. He pastors the LifePath Church community and loves the adventure of figuring out how to follow Jesus in a world that’s gone nuts.